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Falcons snap counts from a big win over the Saints

Atlanta makes some post-bye adjustments to playing time.

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons needed that bye week to get right, and to their credit, they came out of it looking better. It was far from a perfect effort and many of the same questions still linger, but they got the win against the Saints and had some big moments on defense and on the ground.

Let’s talk about how they way they divvied up snaps may have helped them get there.

Offense

Desmond Ridder: 62

Jake Matthews: 62

Matthew Bergeron: 62

Drew Dalman: 62

Chris Lindstrom: 62

Kaleb McGary: 62

Drake London: 52

Bijan Robinson: 39

Kyle Pitts: 31

KhaDarel Hodge: 27

Scotty Miller: 24

Parker Hesse: 23

Jonnu Smith: 22

Van Jefferson: 22

Tyler Allgeier: 18

MyCole Pruitt: 16

Cordarrelle Patterson: 16

Keith Smith: 11


The personnel decisions this week on offense felt guided by matchup and gameplan. Pitts checking in for just half the snaps made sense on a day where the Falcons were intent on running the ball, given that he’s likely the weakest blocker in Atlanta’s current group of tight ends, and while I’d rather see more of him as a receiving option I get the thought process there. The return of Hesse saw him out-snap not just Pruitt but also Jonnu Smith, and his blocking was as good as ever on Sunday. I don’t know if the team will be able to keep him on the practice squad if they want to pound the rock most weeks; they probably should want that, which means Pitts may be a half-time player for a bit.

The way the team divvied up the backfield snaps worked well, too. They had two-back sets several times on Sunday, but more importantly, they let Bijan lead the way, mixed Patterson in as a physical battering ram in the early-to-mid-game, and let Allgeier take over late when his hard-charging style is tough for a weary defense to deal with. After frustrating stretches of usage throughout the season, it appeared against the Saints that the Falcons had figured out a winning way to divvy up touches and snaps in a deep backfield.

At receiver, meanwhile, the team settled on using Hodge and Miller more often than Jefferson, if only by a handful of snaps. Hodge offers a lot as a blocker and Miller is a zippy player with some utility as a deep threat and in the red zone, while Jefferson remains an unproductive option (six catches on 16 targets) six games into his Falcons tenure. Atlanta badly needs someone else in this corps to step up; we’ll see if Hollins factors in when he returns or if Jefferson can finally get going.

Defense

Kaden Elliss: 72

A.J. Terrell: 72

Jessie Bates: 71

Jeff Okudah: 64

Richie Grant: 54

Nate Landman: 53

Bud Dupree: 50

Dee Alford: 46

Calais Campbell: 46

David Onyemata: 46

DeMarcco Hellams: 38

Kentavius Street: 37

Arnold Ebiketie: 25

Zach Harrison: 24

Ta’Quon Graham: 23

Albert Huggins: 23

Lorenzo Carter: 20

Mike Hughes: 18

Tre Flowers: 8

Andre Smith Jr.: 2


The biggest, most noteworthy change here is that Hellams is suddenly getting significant run. He relieved Grant at times, played at the same time as him, and played quite well, with five tackles, three credited stops per Pro Football Focus, and solid enough work in coverage. The rookie seventh rounder has been solid-to-impressive at every step of his young career thus far, and it’s clear that one of the bye week adjustments the Falcons identified was finding a way to get him on the field more often. We’ll see if that holds against the Jets, but I’d expect it to.

The Falcons will likely handle their defensive line rotation a little differently against each opponent, but I think this is a rough outline of what we should expect going forward. Campbell, Dupree, and Onyemata will dominate snaps, Street will be the top reserve on the interior, and we’ll see Graham and Huggins getting plenty of time. Ebiketie and Carter will rotate in at EDGE, as well, which is good because the team badly needs the pass rush punch Ebiketie in particular can offer. With a slate of mostly mediocre quarterbacks coming up, the Falcons will hope to get away with rolling out an older crew of solid run defenders and hope the lack of pressure doesn’t kill them.

The only other note of note is that Hughes got some playing time at Alford’s expense and Flowers played briefly for Okudah, and whether that was designed to give both players an extended breather or a sign that the team might mix and match a little bit at cornerback is a bit of an open question. I’m betting it’s the breather.

Special teams

Tre Flowers: 20

Andre Smith Jr.: 20

Micah Abernathy: 20

DeAngelo Malone: 18

Keith Smith: 14

DeMarcco Hellams: 13

Dee Alford: 12

Bradley Pinion: 11

Calais Campbell: 10

Richie Grant: 9

KhaDarel Hodge: 9

Parker Hesse: 8

Nate Landman: 7

Zach Harrison: 7

David Onyemata: 6

Ta’Quon Graham: 6

Lorenzo Carter: 6

Scotty Miller: 6

MyCole Pruitt: 6

Cordarrelle Patterson: 6

Liam McCullough: 6

Chris Lindstrom: 4

Jake Matthews: 4

Kaleb McGary: 4

Matthew Bergeron: 4

Storm Norton: 4

Ryan Neuzil: 4

Kyle Hinton: 4

Younghoe Koo: 4

Arnold Ebiketie: 1

Mike Hughes: 1


Thankfully, Younghoe Koo played, as the Falcons needed him to salt away the game with a field goal try he drilled home.

Blessedly, this group did a nice job of limiting the damage on the only return the Saints tried Sunday, a six yard scamper for Rashid Shaheed. The group here has changed over time—Flowers was a starter at the beginning of the year, Smith wasn’t on the roster, etc.—and there have been ups and downs. This, with Pinion punting well, Koo handling his job, and the return and coverage teams doing a solid job, was one of the better weeks of the 2023 season.